After coming oh-so-close to the Mirrorball trophy twice, Dancing with the Stars' Anna Trebunskaya is ready to go all the way this season with Kurt Warner. "I hope so. It's still a long way to go, but I think we can do it," she tells TVGuide.com. "Kurt's working really hard and has made a lot of strides in the past week alone." That progress was reflected last week, as the retired National Football League quarterback earned unanimous praise from the judges and improved his score two points to 21. Find out what Trebunskaya — who finished second with Jerry Rice and Evan Lysacek in Seasons 2 and 10, respectively — is working on with Warner the most for Monday's storytelling theme and get her thoughts on Bruno Tonioli's harsh critique of Michael Bolton.
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TVGuide.com: How's the foxtrot coming? What's your story?
Anna Trebunskaya: Very well. It's coming together nicely. Our song is "Bad Day," and we're trying to make it a positive message. I'm the one having a bad day and Kurt is there to cheer me up.
TVGuide.com: You got some great comments from the judges last week, which was a turnaround from their first-week critiques.
Trebunskaya: Yeah, what was really cool was that they noticed the things that we had been working on. That was rewarding. I definitely feel that his musicality, as Carrie Ann [Inaba] noticed, has improved the most. He's used to zoning out 50,000 people and not hearing any sound when he played football. Now I'm asking him to dance to music and he'd be like, "What? There's music? What are you talking about?" [Laughs] ... You just have to keep reminding him. I tell him to remember certain moves for certain parts of the songs. He's getting there. He used to zone out sound, but now he needs to get in the music zone.
Trebunskaya: Definitely. Football players' postures are tough to work with. Their athletic stance is just different. Basically, he's doing the complete opposite of what he was doing before. But you keep reminding him, and we've been doing stretches for his shoulders and some stretches for his chest and back — just slowly trying to get him out of the football position. He's getting used to it, but it's not easy. TVGuide.com: The posture wasn't that big of a deal in the jive, but it is for the foxtrot.
Trebunskaya: Yeah, he's definitely getting better. But the biggest challenge this week actually has been acting. Since it's storytelling week, we have to act a little bit. He always says, "I feel so cheesy doing that. I feel corny and over-the-top." I have to explain to him that you have to act it and almost do it like you're in a silent movie, where you over-exaggerate everything so people will get the idea of what's going on. I like working with athletes. They know how to work, they're very focused and determined. They get competitive. At the same time, you have to really bring out their personalities because they're not used to showing their personalities. They're used to having their game face on, which is kind of stern.TVGuide.com: The judges' really harped on that with Evan last season, but Kurt showed personality in the jive.
Trebunskaya: Absolutely. He also felt like, with the jive, he could have more fun because it's more of an upbeat, fun dance. He was like, "If I'm being goofy for this dance, it's OK." But he doesn't feel appropriate being goofy for the foxtrot and I'm asking him to be goofy, so then comes the "I feel so cheesy" comments.
Trebunskaya: [Laughs] But it was kind of true! His technique has improved so much! It's just night and day. He learned the proper language, he calls things by the proper names. We're starting to get on the same page. The technique can always be better, but he's definitely improved. He still has to learn to use his smaller muscles and work on the performance aspect.TVGuide.com: We have to talk about Michael Bolton and Bruno. Do you think Bruno was out of line?
Trebunskaya: I really like Michael. We all did. We all felt Bruno's comments were too harsh and unnecessary. To say it was the worst jive in all 11 seasons — that's not true. There were jives that were much worse. Even if it were true, you don't say it like that in that way. Michael tried his best. I agreed with Len [Goodman] when he commented on Tuesday: You want to pinpoint the mistakes, but you want to encourage people versus putting him down.TVGuide.com: Did you talk to Michael afterward?
Trebunksaya: Yeah, a little bit. "Hey, how are you doing?" He said, "How do you think I'm doing?" We said, "You'll be fine, it's OK." We tried to be supportive and cheerful, but it's hard. And then he got eliminated. So what sucks about this whole situation is that he's leaving on a bad note with a negative experience, and it didn't have to be that way. I think if the comments were more moderate, he wouldn't have felt that way, but Michael was just really down. I think it's good that he told Bruno that he was disrespectful. He stood up for himself. That was the right thing to do.
Trebunskaya: Well, I was very surprised to see David [Hasselhoff] go. He's one of the bigger celebrities, but that just proves that the audience is educated now and they can tell bad dancing from good dancing, and bad effort from good effort. I didn't think he was that bad for the first week. I like this cast because it's more even. There's not anybody who's dramatically better than anyone else. Jennifer Grey's great, but she's also older than most of the cast, so there's no superhuman, which I think makes it more fair. I think everyone's done really well so far. Right now, it's kind of anybody's game and it's still early in the season.TVGuide.com: Are you and your husband, Jonathan Roberts, doing any numbers this season? He needs to rejoin the cast.
Trebunskaya: Yeah, he needs to be back in the cast! I absolutely agree with you. But this is not our call! We'll definitely do a few numbers. We're doing one this results show. It's going to be a pretty exciting number. It'll be just the two of us. I love it when it's just the two of us.